Florida Black Bear are the largest land mammals in the state of Florida. At birth they are smaller than a soda can but they quickly grow up to 250-400 pounds for males and 125-250 pounds for females. Even though black bears are large animals, they are not fierce killers nor are they cute and cuddly. Bears are like most other wildlife; if you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you.
In 1974, bear population numbers were extremely low and the Florida Black Bear was listed as a state threatened species. Today, we have increased bear population numbers 10 fold to about 3,000 statewide.
As urban areas have expanded into bear habitat, the number of bear/human interactions has increased. Bears are omnivorous with 80% of their diet coming from plants. Bears are fairly intelligent creatures that forage for easy food sources. Urban areas tend to attract nearby bears with food sources such as garbage containers, pet food dishes, and bird feeders. Bears become accustom to food sources near humans and lose some fear of humans and may even bluff charge humans to defend their food source. The best way to prevent this is to remove food sources.
- Clean BBQ grills and store them in a secure building when not in use.
- Take garbage to the curb the morning of pickup instead of the night before.
- Store garbage cans in a sturdy building or other secure area.
- Feed pets inside and store pet food securely.
- Protect gardens and trees with electric fencing.
- Hang wildlife feeders out of reach of bears and take them down if bears are in the area.
It is illegal to feed bears in Florida (Florida Administrative Code 68A-4.001(3)). In addition to being illegal, it isn’t smart. Feeding bears intentionally or unintentionally increases the likelihood of human injury, property damage and bear injury or death.
So what do you do if you encounter a bear?
- Remain calm and don’t run!
- Don’t approach the bear, instead give it space to retreat.
- Back away slowly without looking the bear in the eyes.
- Speak to the bear in a calm voice.
- Bring children and pets inside.
- Find a safe place then make a lot of noise to let the bear know it isn’t welcome – yell, bang pots and pans, raise your hands high and stand tall to scare the bear away.
Report Bear sightings to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at https://public.myfwc.com/fwri/blackbear/getlatlong.aspx
For more information on Florida Black Bears, you can visit MyFWC at http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/bear